Last Updated: 05/12/15
How to Write an AMCAS Personal Statement
About the Medical School Personal Statement
Your personal statement is a crucial part of your medical school application. This is the first chance an admissions officer has to get a glimpse into who you are beyond your numbers (MCAT score and GPA) and the checklist of shadowing, volunteering, research, etc. You want your personality to shine through and you want to show them you are more than a good test taker, you are also a good person. Now more than ever, medical schools are taking personality and character into account when making admissions decisions. The medical school personal statement is your place to stand out and you’ll only have 5300 characters, including spaces to do it. So how can you possibly write an essay that captures your personality and character in such a short space? Find some tips below. You can also view a medical school personal statement example here.
How to Write a Captivating Medical School Personal Statement
You’ll want to answer questions in your personal statement that wouldn’t appear elsewhere on your application. Here are some examples of what you’ll want to include:
- Why do you want to become a doctor?
- What motivates you to study medicine and help patients?
- What experiences (good or bad) have you had in the medical field?
- What personality traits do you have that will make you successful?
- Why are you unique from other applicants?
- What hardships have you overcome in your life?
- Why did your grades fluctuate over your college career?
You may have great answers for some of these questions and you might not have thought about others before. This is the time to brainstorm your ideas and write them down.
Most effective personal statements don’t ramble on and on jumping from one topic to another. Instead, they center their statement around one central theme. Many choose to use a personal experience in medicine or a story as their theme. Some people choose to write about a medical mission trip that they went on or perhaps a hardship they’ve overcome. From your brainstorming, you might have a few ideas about your main theme. At this point, you should pick a theme and start connecting how your brainstormed ideas fit into your theme.
Confused? Here’s an example: Suppose you chose to write about your medical mission trip as your main theme. Also suppose that your brainstormed ideas were that you’re hard-working and persistent, you’ve had many good and bad experiences shadowing doctors, and you want to be a doctor because you love science and people. What you should do now is try to think of a time during that trip when you worked hard and were persistent. Try to think of a time when you shadowed doctors who weren’t good and contrast that time to the doctors you encountered on your trip. Also, think of a time on your trip that’s a great example of your love for science and people. This will be the basic framework for your personal statement!
Now that you have a basic outline of the topics for your personal statement, it’s time to write! You should keep a few things in mind while writing that we’ll mention now:
- The AMCAS application does not have a spelling or grammar check! You should write your whole essay in an outside program and make certain there are no errors. Nothing brings down a good personal statement like a careless spelling mistake.
- Don’t worry about being like everyone else. Let’s face it, nearly everyone wants to go into medicine because they want to help people. You don’t need to come up with some incredible new reason to go into medicine, you just need to come across as sincere about what you say.
- Your intro should be interesting! Think of a way to make your reader interested in what you have to say. For example, instead of saying “In the summer of 2010 I went on a medical mission trip to Haiti.” you could say “I found my passion for medicine in the place I least expected: the sweltering summer heat of Haiti.” See how the second sentence draws the reader in? This is your goal – to make the admissions counselor interested in learning more about you.
- You need to have good transitions. One way to bring down a great personal statement is to make it feel disjointed by not using proper transitions.
- Don’t use cliché adjectives to describe yourself. Please don’t say “I would make a good doctor because I’m intellectual, kind, caring, and hard-working.” Show it instead! Telling a story that shows those qualities about you is a much more effective way of making an impression than simply listing character traits.
- Include details that won’t be found elsewhere on your application. Talk about hardships you’ve overcome, your unique experiences, and show your personality. If you’ve had fluctuations in grades, it might be a good idea to explain why in a short paragraph.
- Don't include details that can be found elsewhere on your AMCAS application unless you have something unique to say about them! The personal statement is not the place to list all of your research or volunteer experiences, there is an activities section of AMCAS for that!
That’s it! You should be well on your way toward crafting an interesting and sincere personal statement. Still confused? You can find an example of a student who used our methods to write a real personal statement that worked here.